By Melinda Munson

On Aug. 6, the Municipality of Skagway Assembly proposed Ordinance 20-16, which would require cloth face coverings in all municipal facilities, including the school, when social distancing of six feet is not possible. If passed, the ordinance would continue as long as the March 16 declaration of emergency, a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, is in effect.

“The way that this ordinance is written is to cover one thing and one thing only and that is liability,” said Mayor Andrew Cremata, who put forth the ordinance.

“…Very clear mandates were coming down from multiple sources including the CDC, the World Health Organization, the state governance, the governor, Dr. Zink and even the president of the United States — all saying the same thing which was to wear masks,” Cremata said.

According to Cremata, neither the municipality nor the school have insurance to cover claims related to COVID-19.

Cremata said he started working on the ordinance before the school board’s Aug. 4 vote which encourages but does not require masks in school as long as social distancing can be maintained and there are no cases of COVID-19 in the community. 

In a letter to the assembly on behalf of the school board, Superintendent Josh Coughran wrote, “When it comes to governance of the school and any claims of liability therein, we are a sovereign entity. The Skagway School Board respectfully asks the assembly to remove the inclusion of the school building from this ordinance.”

He added that “expecting an athlete to complete a practice in a mask is both untenable and potentially dangerous.”

“This is not a school board related issue,” Cremata told the chambers. “The school board is autonomous, we respect that autonomy and will continue to do so.”

The assembly voted unanimously to move the ordinance to a second reading with no discussion or amendments. The ordinance’s second reading is scheduled for the next assembly meeting, Aug. 20 at 7 p.m.

“We wanted to vet this thoroughly through the community so that the assembly has every weapon at their disposal to make an informed decision,” Cremata said.

Community member Kellie Curtin started a petition on requesting that the municipality include private businesses in the mask ordinance. As of deadline, 332 residents had signed the petition and many wrote to the assembly in support of the plan.

Casey Sheridan disagreed with the petition, saying a mask mandate would “rob the citizens of their right to choose whether or not to wear a mask and also businesses of their right to enforce their own policies for their own stores.”

Sheridan said he started his own petition and collected 51 signatures.